January 2010 Mix CD

  1. The Ruby Suns – It’s Mwangi in Front of Me
  2. Fleet Foxes – Your Protector
  3. The xx – Crystalised
  4. The Knife – Like a Pen
  5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero
  6. Discovery – Orange Shirt
  7. Yelle – Tristesse/Joie
  8. Polyphonic Size – Girlscout
  9. Deltron 3030 – Virus
  10. The Pink Noise – Wild Love
  11. Lovvers – 100 Flowers
  12. Tokyo Police Club – Tessellate
  13. Sleater Kinney – Jumpers
  14. Pony Pony Run Run – Hey You
  15. Peter Bjorn and John- Nothing to Worry About
  16. Tokyo Police Club – Sixties Remake
  17. The Good, the Bad, & the Queen – Herculean
  18. M83 – Graveyard Girl
  19. Fleet Foxes – Mykonos
  20. Animal Collective – What Would I Want? Sky

Unlike the past few mix CDs I’ve burned, I made this one more of a full circle.  Rather than having a beginning and end, we start off with “It’s Mwangi in Front of Me”, an unusual mix of sparse and lush, which works well coming off of the finale of “What Would I Want? Sky”.  It’s much better for when the CD loops around in the car.  The pace picks up with Fleet Foxes with “Your Protector” which is probably the closest the group gets to rocking out.

“Zero” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs is the only track of theirs I really like.  The pulsating bassline drives the track between big synthy choruses.  “Tristesse / Joie” does something similar with the track fading away and coming back with a plumper bass groove and juicy kick.  Not that the unabashedly bouncy bass in the first section of the song is anything at which to scoff.

Some songs from the 70s and 80s work in a different way than they used to.  “Girlscout” has a sound that still works as we can view it through the lens of retro and lo-fi, even though I would imagine at the time it was cutting edge and high tech.  I’ve found this same effect in Brian Eno’s Another Green World, which by today’s standards, sounds self-consciously lo-fi.  Also, one of the recurring themes in “Girlscout” sounds like the theme from The Jetsons, so we got that going on, too.

Yes, Deltron 3030 is hip hop for white people, I admit it, but there’s a lot here that works.  Dan the Automator rocks a minimal, but effective drum loop with a smattering of windchimes.  The occasional growl, arpeggio, and sci-fi sample supports the basic cyberpunk storyline.

Tokyo Police Club’s “Sixties Remake” is one of their best songs.  It’s almost entirely because of the Editors-like guitar piece in the chorus.  That might not sound like much, but for a two minute Tokyo Police Club song, it’s enough.  This band does not overstay their welcome, but I still think they could stand to add a little more spice to their non-single tracks.  For example, “Nature of the Experiment” has quite a few clever hooks to it: the bassline is catchy, the main chorus guitar riff is fantastic, and the overlapping female vocals are inspired.  If TPC wants to push the two minute barrier (not that I’m saying they should want to push that barrier), they need to have that much cleverness to sustain my interest.

I think I have a good grasp of what M83 is going for: dream-like visions of a sometimes melancholy youth, like a snapshot out of The Virgin Suicides.  That said, I think it’s difficult to listen to the graveyard girl’s actual words (“the cemetery is my home/I want to be a part of it”, “I’m 15 years old/ And I feel it’s already too late to live”) without cringing.  I get that this is probably supposed to be emo poetry that a high school freshman would write, but that doesn’t mean it’s not embarrassing to listen to.

“What Would I Want? Sky” is atmospherically two separate pieces with the second providing the enjoyable pop-vocal payoff.  However, the song is nowhere near as rewarding without the clattering, effects-driven first half.  Hearing this for the first time, it’s really surprising how this simple, catchy pop song emerges from an experimental (well, not that experimental) mishmash.  If you’ve been an Animal Collective fan for awhile, feel free to think less of me as their first album I actually enjoy listening to is Sung Tongs (2004) and my general enjoyment of their works is inversely proportional to how long ago it came out.  I can live without the pop structure, but I can’t live without any structure.

Arbitrary song of the day: Sleigh Bells – Crown on the Ground

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